Charles Martel, born in 686, was a historical leader acclaimed as a savior and the founder of modern Europe. The Frankish military leader was born illegitimately to the Mayor of the Palace, Pepin of Herstal, in Austrasia and exposed right into a strong political setting that saw him struggle for power. During this time in history, sons were heirs of their father’s power. However, Charles Martel could not succeed his father since he was not a legitimate son (Fouracre, 2016). Charles and Pippin’s widow conflicted because Charles was neglected in his father’s will. Amidst this turmoil, King Chilperic II of Ragenfrid who was the Mayor of Neustria and Frisians in Holland conspired to eliminate Charles. Charles Martel’s legacy emerged from his political turmoil to rule after his father’s death. Despite these struggles, his reign was a success by conquering other regions and unifying them under his rule.
Charles Martel then underwent a torturous time to earn himself a position that he confidently was suited for. His own “mother” imprisoned him as she tried to rule under the name of his grandchildren. Charles bravely escaped from prison, mobilized an army, and went into war against the Neustrians. The ugly battle between these regions in 717 saw him win over Prectrude (his father’s widow) and the Neutrians as well (Fouracre, 2016). He then secured his position as Mayor of the Franks. With this freedom and power, Charles further subdued Neustria first and proceeded to tackle other hostile elements such as Aquitaine, putting almost all regions under his rule.
After securing power in a majority of the regions, Charles took a rational approach in his governance. He conducted campaigns among Frisians, Bavarians, and Saxons who had previously endangered his kingdom. The approach tactfully gained him consolidated military troops necessary in his time of power.
He acknowledged the social, cultural, and religious needs of his people, and supported St. Boniface and other missionaries in their work across Europe. Consequently, many people converted to Christianity, a religion that taught values to the people. Moreover, it helped counter the Muslim invasion on the Frankish territory by 725 (Fouracre, 2016). For this reason, he served as a uniting figure across regions and wooed Burgundy (a strong opponent to his rule). Charles celebrated his milestones in a very unusual manner, marching rapidly across the Loire River to ensure people recognized his victory against his enemies and to emphasize his power.
Charles demonstrated his traits not only as a warrior but also as a diplomat. He won the loyalty of the Bishops by donating land and money. In addition, he was strategic enough to replace the dukes with his loyal armies to hold fast his place in power. As a warrior, he killed a few marshals that stood in his way as he ruled over Austria. Thus, he made a delicate balance between ruthless ruling and strategic efforts to secure his place. Charles developed health complications towards the end of 1730s that forced him to retire at his Quierzy-surOise palace. He then split the Merovingian kingdom into two leaving his two legitimate sons to take over.
In summary, Charles earned the title the ‘The
Hammer,’ meaning to Martel, because of
the struggle he went through during his tenure. As demonstrated, he pushed
through battles that that gave him a chance to reform Europe. Above the vision
he had for himself, he steered Europe into civilization and cohesiveness. For this,
his legacy still lives on in Europe.
Fouracre, P. (2016). The age of Charles Martel. London: Routledge.